When thinking about estate planning, many people think of a trust—and rightfully so. A trust is an excellent way to avoid probate and ensure your assets go to the people you want to have them. But many people unfortunately forget about transferring assets to the trust. Even if you are the trustee, you still need to move those assets. Why? Because if the titles to certain assets remain in your name, and not within the trust, your estate will likely end up in probate court.
A formal transfer of title to a trustee—even if the trustee is you—is needed to avoid the inconvenience of probate. Here are some things to consider:
Your Primary Place of Residence/Vacation Homes/Other Real Property
If you plan to hold your primary residence in trust, you should transfer the title to the trustee, whether that is you, you and your spouse, a child, or a trusted friend. The same thing applies to vacation homes or other real property. For each piece of property, you must create a new deed transferring assets and ownership to the trustee, even if that's yourself.
Changing your checking account can be very inconvenient, and most people don't keep large amounts of cash in these types of accounts. Therefore, there is no need to transfer the account to a trustee. Most states permit the transfer of funds (under a certain amount) without formal probate.
Banking or savings and loan association savings accounts should be held by the trustee of a revocable trust. Financial institutions will work with you to complete the necessary paperwork for transferring assets to the trust.
A broker will help you prepare a new account agreement for transferring assets and securities into a trust. To transfer a stock certificate, you must submit the certificate, along with an executed assignment, with your signature guaranteed by stockbroker or bank, to the transfer agent with instructions to reissue the certificate to the name of the trust.
Life Insurance/Retirement Plans/Annuities
You are not required to transfer ownership of certain assets such as life insurance, retirement plans, and accounts or annuities to a trustee since the beneficiary designation form filed with the respective organization will designate who receives the proceeds. To change a beneficiary, simply reach out to the agent or company and ask for a beneficiary designation change form.
Be sure to review your beneficiaries regularly so you don't end up leaving assets to an ex-spouse or someone who has predeceased you.
Seek Professional Advice
It can be a hassle to manage transferring assets to a trust. However, if you want your estate to pass on with the least amount of issues, it's an imperative. Instead of going it alone, trust and experienced estate planning attorney to help you establish a trust and work through all the necessary documentation. Poulos Law Firm has been working with clients and their estate plans for 30+ years, and we are happy to answer all your questions. Contact us to get started.